It is a farrago of inconsistent nonsense, resting on the unchallenged assumption that the 1980s transformed the economy for the better. They didn’t. Last week, Thames Water released an excoriating internal report acknowledging that, at current rates of investment, it will take 357 years to renew its water trunk mains even as the number of sometimes life-threatening water main bursts climbs. The merits of privatisation have never seemed more questionable. This is a company that has been looted by its private equity owners for the last decade. In his self-regarding book, The View From Number 11, Lawson writes that the then deputy prime minister, Willie Whitelaw, had the deepest misgivings about water privatisation, which Lawson dismissed. Whitelaw’s judgment has proved the more enduring.
And yet investment in the water network rose considerably after privatisation. Meaning that if lack of investment was the problem then privatisation was a better cure for the problem than state ownership.